One of the biggest environmental impacts that humanity has on the world’s ecosystem is with agriculture. While modern farming practices feed millions of people world wide, there are many latent consequences on the environment that make the current systems unsustainable. First, farmland must be cleared for crops from existing ecosystems, which often means leveling forests, limiting diversity, and displacing many species. Habitats critical to the survival of endangered animals are being threatened every day by unsustainable farming or harvesting practices, and the consequences are not usually widely known. For example, Indonesia’s forests are home to the Orangutan, an endangered species of great apes who lives in the tropical rain basins of Borneo and Sumatra. Unfortunately, the habitat of these magnificent animals is being clear-cut at an extraordinary rate. The palm oil industry harvests a majority of its raw product from the homes of the great Orangutan, and is expanding rapidly on a daily basis. The palm oil used in household products today accounts for 35% of world’s vegetable oil production (USDA, 2013), and only 14% is considered sustainable by CSPO Standards. The deforestation is significant to the dwindling numbers of orangutan, whose habitat has been depleted by 80% in the last 20 years. Some estimate that less than 7,000 Sumatran orangutans and 50,000 Bornean orangutans are alive in the wild today, with up to a 5,000 decline in population every year! Without sustainable palm oil harvesting, the orangutan species has as little as 15-20 years left until they become completely extinct.
So what can be done? First, we can educate ourselves about the facts, and spread the word to others. Start by knowing what products and companies use unsustainable palm oil, and stop buying their products! The Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) organization posts a palm oil free product list that can be used as a shopping guide. Check the labels of your food, and look for the RSPO insignia certifying any palm oil use as sustainable. In addition, check out the organizations listed below and find out how you can help the orangutan’s survival. Sustainable action starts with us, and the products and companies we choose to support.
For More Information on Palm Oil and the Orangutan: